By Abuzar Ilyas
The achievements, feats, sacrifices and adventures of Pakistan Air Force make every patriotic Pakistani feel proud. The whole nation and media remembers the stories and pilots from 1965 war but I want to discuss the potential of today’s PAF in the vocabulary understandable for a layman. Any discussion about PAF’s potential is incomplete without discussing the pride of Pakistan, the JF-17 Thunder. I always make analysis on the basis of opinions of men in uniform because they are the best people to listen to on this issue.
JF-17 Thunder, though an underrated aircraft by non-professional opinion makers due to certain factors as it is a young platform, cheap in price and belongs to the lightweight category but it is a fact that JF-17 Thunder is nonetheless at par with any other advanced high end fighter in the world as far as the matter of aerial scenario of Pakistan is concerned. It has got all the weaponry, payload and range which is needed to defend the aerial frontiers of Pakistan whether we talk about defence of our land or seas. Whenever any Thunder, F-16 or Mirage operator is interviewed and asked the question about this platform, he always gives the same answer that JF-17 Thunder is better than our expectations and it will prove its worth whenever it will be given a chance in an active battle.
The radar & avionics of Thunder are up to the mark and they can detect any high tech top notch fighter of our adversary from Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) which means it possesses the capability to shoot an enemy aircraft through radar guided missiles before it comes into its visual contact. One of the main advantages of JF-17 Thunder is its low Radar Cross Section (RCS) due to its literally ‘tiny’ size as compared to other 4th generation fighters due to which it can avoid a better radar of enemy because after all PAF pilots have special skills to dodge enemy radars in case of an engagement which they already proved in many conflicts and exercises.
JF-17 Thunder allows PAF to customize the aircraft as per the requirements of the mission because it is developed and evolved by PAF itself so we have 100% control over it. The imported platforms like Mirage and F-16s obviously create some limitations because we cannot install our own weapons on them due to software and hardware restrictions which affects the usability of the foreign manufactured machines. In case of Thunder, we can mount any weapon on this aircraft. Currently 3 active squadrons are operating in PAF in addition to its induction in PAF Combat Commanders School.
JF-17 Thunder, like any other fighter aircraft can carry multiple long-range and short-range air-to-air missiles and can perform its interceptor role but modern day interceptors are expected to do more than just interception missions so they are also named as Multi Role Combat Aircrafts due to the versatility of the nature of the job they do. Pakistan Air Force uses its MRCA’s as both fighters and bombers. JF-17 allows us to mount any desired weapon for the completion of the mission. It can carry general purpose bombs, laser guided munitions, runway penetration bombs, anti-radiation anti radar weapons, stand-off missiles, anti-ship missiles and nuclear capable cruise missiles whereas carrying air-to-air missiles is a primary purpose of any combat aircraft.
The base commander PAF Masroor said in a program broadcasted on this 6th September Defense Day that Pakistan Navy was previously using Mirage aircrafts with less capabilities in anti-ship roles but JF-17 Thunder provides us much longer range, endurance and versatility in the weapons. Now together the aircraft and the weapons it uses make us able to surprise our enemy in war times. Now we can hunt our enemies to the ranges which they think that we cannot reach. These were some key words of Base Commander PAF Masroor where the newly equipped No.2 Minhas squadron of Pakistan Air Force is currently deployed and dedicated for naval operations.
Pakistan Air Force is the only air force in the world which produces its own jets. All other air forces including American and Russian buy jets from the state owned or private manufacturers. Pakistan Aeronautical Complex is the part of PAF which distinguishes PAF among from other air forces. Home built jet gave us satisfaction and a feeling of security that our weapon system is immune to all sanctions and we can use it without any foreign pressure in times of war. JF-17 Thunder’s Block-I is a mature platform with years of service in PAF and its elite fighter school CCS. Block-II’s production is still going on till the arrival of promised Block-III version of this aircraft which is believed to be a surprise for the whole world due to the specifications which it will offer.
I must say that JF-17 is not only a weapon of air force but it will prove its mettle for helping all tri-services when the time will come insha Allah.